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faust1103

Keep Katana in shirasaya for display?

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Hello,

 

I am a newbie and so far I only have a Iado katana.

 

I would like to purchase my first nihonto soon. 

I plan to keep the nihonto as a decoration piece in a glass cabinet and take it out only very rarely. No cutting tests or anything are intended

 

Would it make sense to keep the nihonto blade in the shirasaya (with the koshirae being displayed with a wooden blade alongside it) or would be ok to have the blade fully fitted with it's koshira (and inside it's saya) for display reasons?

 

I understand that I have to oil the blade occasionally for rust prevention but could this also be done when mounted to the koshirae?

 

I don't want to screw up my first nihonto by getting the blade rusty but I think would look better (in the display case) with the koshirae fitted to it.

 

What do you guys think?  

 

 

 

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Hi Faust, 

 

welcome to the board. Should you have a blade in shirasaya, I would suggest to let it in that way. Shirasaya is protecting the blade against all injuries and  air attacks especially if you are in a salty atmosphere (close to a sea shore for instance). 

 

Regards

 

Bruno

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@Bruno,

 

The nihonto would have a shirasaya as well a complete kashira (with saya).

 

I was thinking that the nihonto would display better with the kashira fitted on (instead of being in the shirasaya).

I am also worried of screwing up the exchange of the blade from the shirasaya to the koshirae so I was thinking about leaving the blade in the koshirae all the time.

  

 

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The correct way to store a blade is in a shirasaya. It offers the best protection for the sword. If you have a koshirae for the sword this should be held on a tsunagi. One often sees a blade in shirasaya and it's koshirae displayed on the same stand.

Storing in a koshirae, especially an antique or vintage one can be risky. The saya is more likely to have been outside and subject to harder use than a shirasaya and is therefore likely to have dust or other contamination within it which could scratch or promote rust.

A blade in good polish should be held in a shirasaya. period.

 

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Ok,

Thanks for the advice. 

 

Another question:

If for some reason you have to touch the blade ( for cleaning, oiling ect.) would you wear nitril of cotton gloves?

Would that be advisable?

 

 

 

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Faust,

Can I suggest you do a search here for sword handling etiquette. If not here then on the NBTHK website or other reputable source and you can find great detail about the correct way to hold, handle and preserve a sword. It may be helpful for you.

There is no correct answer about wearing gloves, some museums insist on it and they use disposable silicon. People handling fittings seem to use white cotton.

Personally I never use gloves (unless requested to do so by the owner) as I regard it as potentially more dangerous with greater slip potential. Whether viewing or cleaning there is really no reason your hand should come in to contact with the blade. 

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I have a blade for 2 years unprotected on display and the condition is still the same. I clean and oil it every 2-3 weeks. I think it is wrong to touch the nakago with gloves because the natural oil of the hands is part of the process of patination.

 

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If you touch the nakago with gloves on, you may pick something up that you can transfer to the blade. It doesn't take much to scratch a blade. I don't use gloves on the nakago. 

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19 minutes ago, faust1103 said:

 

 

 

@Christian

 

Thanks for the advice.

So you actually just present the bare blade. No saya , no shirasaya?

 

faust

 

 

Yes but the reason is just that I don’t have a shirasaya for the blade. If I have one I would use it. I’m not sure how long it would take to oxide but I wouldn’t wait much longer then 2weeks for new oil.

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6 hours ago, faust1103 said:

@Bruno,

 

The nihonto would have a shirasaya as well a complete kashira (with saya).

 

I was thinking that the nihonto would display better with the kashira fitted on (instead of being in the shirasaya).

I am also worried of screwing up the exchange of the blade from the shirasaya to the koshirae so I was thinking about leaving the blade in the koshirae all the time.

  

 


If you are concerned about damaging a blade (or just making mistakes) when going from shirasaya to koshirae (and back), then with all due respect you are not ready to own a nihonto.

 

Do you have a club nearby, where someone with more experience could help you in person? 

 

Please read the material that Grey shared in this thread, as it is the bare minimum you should master if you are going to own a nihonto.
 

Most “iaido” schools are not going to teach you what you need to know in order to properly handle a sharp sword, much less a real Japanese blade. 
 

An antique nihonto should not be stored or displayed in koshirae. 

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I personally think old shirasaya is no better than old koshira and like wise new koshira is just as good as new shirasaya, after all internally they are pretty much the same. ? 

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38 minutes ago, peterd said:

I personally think old shirasaya is no better than old koshira and like wise new koshira is just as good as new shirasaya, after all internally they are pretty much the same. ? 


One major difference is that the saya for koshirae are lacquered and the shirasaya obviously is not. A lacquered saya is not designed to create, allow, or support the ideal microclimate inside because it’s not designed for long term storage. 
 

There's a reason that shirasaya are nicknamed “sleeping saya”.

 

As Darcy has said shirasaya are effectively an ancient technology, and there are truly modern climate control alternatives that are arguably better but certainly cost prohibitive. 
 

But either way a lacquered saya is not optimal, especially depending on the surrounding climate. 

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Depending on surrounding climate I think lacquered saya might help. Particularly in damp conditions i think it stops warping and keeps moisture out.

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12 hours ago, peterd said:

Depending on surrounding climate I think lacquered saya might help. Particularly in damp conditions i think it stops warping and keeps moisture out.


On the contrary, lacquer work requires some of the most specific climate control otherwise it can easily degrade. 

 

And Japan is a pretty humid place. If lacquered saya did the job, there’d be no need for shirasaya...

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On 12/26/2020 at 4:05 PM, faust1103 said:

I plan to keep the nihonto as a decoration piece in a glass cabinet and take it out only very rarely. No cutting tests or anything are intended

 

Would it make sense to keep the nihonto blade in the shirasaya (with the koshirae being displayed with a wooden blade alongside it) or would be ok to have the blade fully fitted with it's koshira (and inside it's saya) for display reasons?

 

So despite him putting the blade in a glass cabinet and therefore protected from anything that could come through the air (well, aside of light) it still is recommended to store it within the shirasaya?!

 

What if you display just the bare blade right next to the koshirae? This way its not on the blade but both are visible.

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17 hours ago, peterd said:

Depending on surrounding climate I think lacquered saya might help. Particularly in damp conditions i think it stops warping and keeps moisture out.

There is the main difference if it keeps moisture out it will also keeps it in.  Lacquered wood can’t breathe and can’t regualate the climate. If the conditions change from day to night the shirasaya can regulate humidity without condensation inside.

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2 hours ago, Promo said:

 

So despite him putting the blade in a glass cabinet and therefore protected from anything that could come through the air (well, aside of light) it still is recommended to store it within the shirasaya?!

 

What if you display just the bare blade right next to the koshirae? This way its not on the blade but both are visible.


Again the issue is climate control, mostly the humidity. 
 

Are we pretty conservative about this? Yes. But given the cost of a polish – both in terms of cash and steel – it’s better to be safe than sorry. It is our responsibility to ensure that these blades survive another 1000 years after all. 

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But given he has “normal“ humidity and not lives close to the sea there is nothing wrong with storing a blade outside the shirasaya?

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6 minutes ago, Promo said:

But given he has “normal“ humidity and not lives close to the sea there is nothing wrong with storing a blade outside the shirasaya?

 

I suppose that depends on one's risk tolerance. I live in the northeast US, and the humidity inside my house ranges from 25% to 65% during the year. I store my juyo blade in shirasaya, inside of an anti-corrosion bag.

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@Katsujinken

 

What's an anti-corrosion bag? 

I imagine that would look bit odd in a display cabinet.

 

Do you oil your blade (and leave the oil on) before you put it in the shirasaya? 

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2 hours ago, faust1103 said:

@Katsujinken

 

What's an ant-corrosion bag? 

I imagine that would look bit odd in a display cabinet.

 

Do you oil your blade (and leave the oil on) before you put it in the shirasaya? 


Indeed an anti-corrosion bag is not really for display: https://www.bluguardvci.com

 

Yes, you should oil the blade whenever you’re not studying it (see more in the short guide Grey shared above).

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I am in the same camp as my US namesake Katsujinken: I gently oil  the blade, store it in its shirasaya which is inserted in shirasaya bag, which in its turn goes in a ZCorr rifle protection bag (VCI coated) with two 1-kg desiccant gel bags placed on top of the ZCorr bag, all of this in a gun safe, with a dehumidifier constantly  running on (maintaining a humidity of 45%-50%) in the sword room.

 

Might sound like an overkill but the value and age of the swords I am dealing with makes the above a no brainer.

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The discussion seems to have gotten mixed. Storage versus display. But the owner said he plans to do both, with his real question being “do I display in original fittings or in shirasaya?”  From all the answers, it seems that his answer should be to display as proposed- in shirasaya with original fittings fitted with tsunagi (sp?).

 

I live in Colorado, with very low humidity.  So I don’t feel concerned about displaying bare blades.

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In fact, all depends on where you live. I live in Paris and I have never oiled a blade in my collecting years and never put them in a storage bag. Now, should I live in Kamakura or in Hawaii, that would be entirely different.

In any case, be cautious and oil all your blades and keep them in shirasaya.

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28 minutes ago, Jean said:

In fact, all depends on where you live. I live in Paris and I have never oiled a blade in my collecting years and never put them in a storage bag. Now, should I live in Kamakura or in Hawaii, that would be entirely different.

In any case, be cautious and oil all your blades and keep them in shirasaya.

 

 

I also live in central Europe and the climate should be comparable to Paris (nearest sea is 100km away). 

I think I will leave my blade in the shirasaya and display the koshirae on a wooden blade (tsunagi).

 

I am bit unsure about putting an oiled blade in the shirasaya.

Wouldn't the oil damage the wood of the shirasaya?

 

 

@Jean,

So you recommend to oil the blade before putting it the shirasaya but during your collecting years you did not?

Did your blades catch any rust back then in Paris being unoiled?

Thanks.

 

faust  

 

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33 minutes ago, Bruce Pennington said:

The discussion seems to have gotten mixed. Storage versus display. But the owner said he plans to do both, with his real question being “do I display in original fittings or in shirasaya?”  From all the answers, it seems that his answer should be to display as proposed- in shirasaya with original fittings fitted with tsunagi (sp?).

 

I live in Colorado, with very low humidity.  So I don’t feel concerned about displaying bare blades.

Bruce, there is absolutely no confusion here. What some, the more cautious of us, are saying is: do not display the blade for an extended period of time in a cabinet. Instead, store it in its shirasaya with the other precautions mentioned and take it out only occasionally to study. So,  very clearly some of us are saying not to display in cabinet but store properly. Not unless the cabinet is watertight and dehumidified as in museums or high-end dealers. Now, of course if you live in the Sahara, you have no issues. But with high humidity or even vacillating humidity, one has an issue when storing. 

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49 minutes ago, faust1103 said:

I am bit unsure about putting an oiled blade in the shirasaya.

Wouldn't the oil damage the wood of the shirasaya?


A properly oiled blade (i.e. not too much oil!) will not damage a shirasaya as long as it is stored properly – laying down and not standing up vertically. 

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Faust,

 

I am very cautious when I give advises. People new to Nihonto with no track records must absolutely follow the most conservative way, i.e. oil +shirasaya, add store bag on top. Will it damage the shirasaya, not if the blade is thinly coated with oil. Furthermore, for the excess of oil, shirasaya have a small reservoir at its bottom.

 

NOW, the shirasaya must be made of honoki and in pristine condition because THE SHIRASAYA must be AIRTIGHT, beware of old shirasaya, they have to be checked and clean by a professional.

 

Now concerning my experience, I never had rust on my non oiled blades kept in Shirasaya. They were on a katana kake and thus I could study them at length whenever I wanted without having to wipe them, reoil them, I am the lazy type but I know the subject by heart and don’t take unnecessary risks.

 

For beginners, adopt Darcy B. policy, oil them, don’t take any risk because Art and money are at stake.

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